Viljo Revell’s Toronto City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square (1965) is a well-loved Modernist icon. Completed after his death, the heritage-designated square was true to the spatial arrangement Revell had envisioned; over time, however, it had become run-down and dysfunctional. In 2006, the City of Toronto launched an international competition to redesign NPS. The winning design strategically rethinks the Square to transform it into an exemplary 21st-Century public space, drawing inspiration from Revell’s own references to classical Athenian political spaces. Through the redesign or relocation of existing elements and a new series of buildings and gardens framing the open plaza, the NPS Revitalization enhances the functionality, versatility, and appeal of Toronto’s signature civic space while augmenting this monumental heritage site’s “connectedness” to its surroundings.

View of the theatre stage (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
View of the stage from the elevated walkways
View of the theatre from the east (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
View of the theatre at midday
View of the theatre (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
The theatre at dusk

Revell’s elevated walkways frame the Square and focus views towards the council chamber – as in the Athenian agora, the threshold of a porch (stoa) at the perimeter clearly defined the interior void. This definition was never fully developed, however, in NPS as built. To strengthen the coherence of the Square, the design team executed four tactical moves:

  1. Open the Square – remove clutter at the centre to accommodate all kinds of large cultural gatherings
  2. Create programmed, porous, landscaped “green rooms” around the perimeter to frame the square
  3. Create new activated connections between the raised walkway and the Square
  4. Strengthen links between levels and between zones using new architecture as the bridge to connect the two levels of the square
Disappearing fountains (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Disappearing fountains
Stage and skate pavilion align to frame the square (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Stage and skate pavilion align to frame the square

Major architectural components include the redesigned Skate Pavilion and creation of a permanent Stage with back-of-house suspended below in the parking garage. All new structures are multi-purpose and connect to the walkways. The glass-canopied, terraced form of the theatre provides covered public space and casual seating when not in use for performances, and its stairs connect the raised walkway to the Square. Small events can take place with performers facing westward toward stairs that double as bleacher seating; for larger events, those on the stage face eastward to overlook the entire Square.

The skate pavilion from the west (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
The skate pavilion with overlooks onto the square
View of the skate pavilion looking southwest (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
The skate pavilion in the summer
Skate pavilion upper level terrace (photo: Steven Evans Photpgraphy)
Skate pavilion upper level terrace · Photo: Steven Evans Photpgraphy
Skate pavilion breezeway (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Skate pavilion breezeway

A Peace Garden added in 1983 near the centre of the Square had compromised the space’s openness and ability to accommodate crowds – relocating it to the western edge freed up the Square’s centre for larger events. The terraced seating of the new Peace Garden is a major structure that conceals the underground parking garage’s exhaust duct while muffling its sound and redirecting the airflow. Other elements include a playground redesign, a new Sculpture Garden, a new forecourt along Queen Street, and a future two-storey restaurant. Although not yet completed, the master plan includes refurbishing the existing elevated walkways with gardens and seating.

Queen Street streetscape (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Queen Street streetscape
Peace garden (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Peace garden
Peace garden at night (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Peace garden at night
Playground (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Playground

Prior to the revitalization, City Hall’s podium was a grim, paved void: it is now Toronto’s largest publicly accessible green roof, a popular urban retreat for sitting and strolling. The Podium Roof Garden’s plantings, which change seasonally from bright yellows and oranges in the southwest to deep reds and purples in the northeast, were chosen to thrive in the site’s challenging shade and wind conditions.

Podium roof garden (photo: Peter Schaudt)
Podium roof garden · Photo: Peter Schaudt
The Podium green roof from above (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
The Podium green roof from above
The garden in fall (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
The garden in fall
The garden in spring (photo: Gabriel Li)
The garden in spring · Photo: Gabriel Li
View of the skate pavilion from the southwest (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Skate pavilion breezeway
Stair beacons (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Stair beacons
Entry to the sculpture garden (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Entry to the sculpture garden
Nuit Blanche (the next day) (photo: Steven Evans Photograpy)
Nuit Blanche (the next day) · Photo: Steven Evans Photograpy

Peace Garden

publiccivicparkgardengreen roofmemorialgraphics

nps-pg-2016-03-8 (photo: Steven Evans Photography)

project index

  1. A Conversation of Views
  2. Admiral Road Garden
  3. Airdrie Road Garden
  4. Airdrie Road Residence
  5. Albany Avenue Residence
  6. Alexandra Park
  7. Aporia Records
  8. Asphalt Poetry
  9. – Poem
  10. Baby Point Gardens
  11. Beach Garden
  12. Beach Village BIA Master Plan
  13. Beaty Residence
  14. Bennington Heights Garden
  15. Berkeley Street Residence
  16. Bin-Scarth Garden
  17. Blink and you miss it.
  18. – Poem
  19. Block 22 Landscape
  20. Bloor St. Apartment
  21. Blue Note
  22. Booth Avenue Residence
  23. Boustrophedon Garden
  24. Braemore Gardens Residence
  25. Browning Avenue Residence
  26. Brunswick Avenue Residence
  27. Camp Arowhon Offices
  28. Canadian Firefighters Memorial
  29. Channelled Buried Moved Lost
  30. Chocolate Loft
  31. City Instrument
  32. Clarendon Garden
  33. Conversation Piece
  34. Creemore Farm
  35. Danforth Mosaic BIA Master Plan
  36. Dickson Park Garden
  37. Dilworth Residence
  38. Don Landing Revitalization
  39. Dublin Grounds of Remembrance
  40. Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden
  41. Dupont-by-the-Castle BIA
  42. East Point Bird Sanctuary
  43. Eglinton Ave Forecourt
  44. Eglinton Park Master Plan
  45. Elizabeth Fry Society
  46. Ellsworth Residence
  47. Face to Face | Tête à Tête
  48. First Avenue Garden
  49. First Avenue Residence
  50. Flyover Canada
  51. Foote’s Pond Wood
  52. Forest Hill Village Streetscape
  53. Gaze, Glimpse, Glance
  54. Goldring Landscape, University of Toronto
  55. Gormley Garden
  56. Governor's Bridge Lookout
  57. Greener P
  58. Greer Road Garden
  59. Greer Road Residence
  60. Guelph Bridge
  61. Head in the Clouds
  62. Helena Ave Residence 4
  63. Junction Craft Brewery
  64. Kelpies Competition
  65. Kew Gardens Streetscape
  66. King's Landing Apartment
  67. Kipling & Islington Developments
  68. Le jardin du repos
  69. Lenticular Curtain
  70. Leslie Slip Lookout Park
  71. Liberty Village Parkettes
  72. Liza’s Garden
  73. Lynwood Garden
  74. Macroscape
  75. Markham Garden One
  76. Markham Street Residence Two
  77. Midtown Yonge Streetscape
  78. Mulock Park
  79. Nathan Phillips Square
  80. – Streetscape
  81. – Peace Garden
  82. – Podium Roof Garden
  83. Orchard View Garden
  84. Osgoode Atkinson Green Competition
  85. Owl Cottage
  86. Paperstone Scissors
  87. Peripheral Sitings
  88. Pottery Road Crossing
  89. rare
  90. Ravine Forecourt
  91. Ribbon of the Lower Don
  92. Riverside BIA Master Plan
  93. Roxborough Garden One
  94. Roxborough Garden Two
  95. Ryerson Centre for Urban Innovation
  96. Ryerson University Science Building
  97. Schulich School of Business
  98. Sheridan College
  99. – Trafalgar Campus Master Plan
  100. Spadina Quay Wetland
  101. St. Anne's Road Garden
  102. Stratford Market Square Competition
  103. Stratford Patterson Theatre Competition
  104. Superkids Dental
  105. Superlegible
  106. Sweet Farm
  107. Sweet Farm Pond House
  108. Swift Medical Offices
  109. The Meadows Reconsidered
  110. The Red Sash
  111. Thick & Thin
  112. Thistletown II Townhouses
  113. Tipping Point
  114. Tranby Garden
  115. Tree House Residence
  116. UBC Okanagan – The Commons
  117. UHN Tunnels
  118. University of Toronto Mississauga Welcome Centre
  119. Venice Biennale 2012
  120. Vermont Square Park
  121. Vernon Avenue Garden
  122. Walk the Walk
  123. Walmer Road Residence
  124. Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial
  125. Wellesley Cottages Garden
  126. Wells Street Residence
  127. Westminster Residence
  128. With Words as Their Actions
  129. Woodlawn Avenue Residence
  130. Woven Stories
  131. York Park